The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel

SPME Members contribute to BDS book ``The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel``

SPME congratulates our colleagues Cary Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm on the publication of „The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel“ which several SPME members have contributed to.

Please find more information about the six SPME members that contributed to this book after the synopsis.


How should we understand the international debate about the future of Israel and the Palestinians? Can justice be achieved in the Middle East? Until now, there was no single place for people to go to find detailed scholarly essays analyzing proposals to boycott Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement of which they are a part.

This book for the first time provides the historical background necessary for informed evaluation of one of the most controversial issues of our day- the struggle between two peoples living side-by-side but with conflicting views of history and conflicting national ambitions.

SPME Contributors

Kenneth L. Marcus is President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and author of the award-winning Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2010). Marcus founded the Brandeis Center in 2011 to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism in American higher education.

In November 2012, Marcus was named to the Forward 50, the Jewish Daily Forward’s listing of the “American Jews who made the most significant impact on the news in the past year.” The Forward described its 50 honorees as “the new faces of Jewish power,” predicting that “if Marcus has any say in it, we may witness a new era of Jewish advocacy.” During his public service career, Marcus served as Staff Director at the United States Commission on Civil Rights and was delegated the authority of Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights and Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Shortly before his departure from the Civil Rights Commission, the Wall Street Journal observed that “the Commission has rarely been better managed,” and that it “deserves a medal for good governance.” For his work in government, Marcus was named the first recipient of the Justice and Ethics Award for Outstanding Work in the Field of Civil Rights.

Marcus also serves as Associate Editor of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism and Vice President of the International Association for the Study of Antisemitism. Marcus previously held the Lillie and Nathan Ackerman Chair in Equality and Justice in America at the City University of New York’s Bernard M. Baruch College School of Public Affairs (2008-2011) and was Chair of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Legal Task Force. Before entering public service, Mr. Marcus was a litigation partner in two major law firms, where he conducted complex commercial and constitutional litigation.

He publishes frequently in academic journals as well as in more popular venues such as Commentary, The Weekly Standard, and The Christian Science Monitor. Mr. Marcus is a graduate of Williams College, magna cum laude, and the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

Richard Allen Landes is an American historian and author, specializing in Millennialism. He currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Boston University. Landes was the director of the now quiescent Center for Millennial Studies.

His work focuses on the role of religion in shaping and transforming the relationships between elites and commoners in various cultures. He has coined the expression “demotic religiosity,” an orientation that prizes 1) equality before the law, 2) dignity of manual labor, 3) access to sacred texts and divinity for all believers, and 4) a prizing of moral integrity over social honor. Trained as a medievalist, his early work focused on the period around 1000 CE, a moment, in his opinion, of both cultural mutation (origins of the modern West), and intense apocalyptic and millennial expectations.

From 1995-2004, he directed the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University which held annual conferences and published an online journal, Journal of Millennial Studies. This involvement refocused his work on millennialism the world over and in different time periods, and has resulted in the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, (Berkshire Reference Works; Routledge, NY, 2000); Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience (Oxford U. Press, 2011), and The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (NYU Press, 2011).

In addition to his courses on medieval history, he offers courses on Europe and the Millennium, Communications Revolutions from Language to Cyberspace Honor-shame culture Middle Ages, Modern World Biblical origins of the Democracy.

In 2011, he is a fellow at the International Consortium on Research in the Humanities at Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany. There he is working on the study with which his medieval work first began, the history of the “sabbatical millennium” with its expectation of the messianic kingdom in the year 6000 from the creation of the world: While God Tarried: Demotic Millennialism from Jesus to the Peace of God, 33-1033.

In 2005 he launched a media-oversight project called The Second Draft in order to look at what the news media calls their “first draft of history.” Since January 2005 he has been blogging at The Augean Stables, a name chosen to describe the current condition of the Mainstream News Media (MSNM) in the West.

As a result of this work on the MSNM, he has come to understand the role of cognitive warfare in the campaign of apocalyptic Jihad against the West in the 21st century, and the abysmal record of the West in defending itself in this critical theater of War. He plans a book addressing these issues tentatively entitled “They’re so Smart ‘cause We’re so Stupid: A Medievalist’s Guide to the 21st Century”.

Gabriel Brahm received his PhD and MA degrees in Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of California—Santa Cruz, and his BA in English from UCLA. He has been a research fellow in Israel Studies at Brandeis University, and holds a teaching certificate in Composition and Rhetoric from San Francisco State University. Before joining the faculty at Northern, he taught as Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies at UC Santa Cruz; Professor of Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey; and Visiting Professor of American Culture at University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia. His published work on literature and politics has appeared in Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Democratiya, Nineteenth-Century Literature, Poetics Today, Rethinking History, and elsewhere. He is co-editor of the cultural studies anthology, Prosthetic Territories: Politics and Hypertechnologies (Westview Press), and serves as Associate Editor for the journal, Politics & Culture. His co-authored book (with Forrest Robinson and Catherine Carlstroem), The Jester and the Sages: Mark Twain in Conversation with Nietzsche, Freud and Marx, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 2011.

Donna Robinson Divine is the Morningstar Family Professor of Political Science at Smith College. She is the co-author, with Philip Carl Salzman of Postcolonial Theory and the Israeli Arab Conflict (2008 Hardback, 2009 Softcover). She serves on the SPME Board of Directors

Even after many years of teaching at Smith, the classroom still provides a magical experience for me and the map for my intellectual inquiries. My intellectual mission is engaged by the challenge to make connections: to show students how events which seem straight forward are often complicated by conflicting historical references and opposing collective memories and in particular, how even the often murky, seemingly irrational events in the Middle East can be made understandable with the right questions in mind or with appropriate conceptual tools in hand. Although my professional residence is in a department of government, I brew up my research projects in an interdisciplinary cauldron, consistent with my own formal education.

I began to undertake serious work on the Middle East as an undergraduate at Brandeis University, concentrating on the history of Islamic civilizations and on language study. My graduate training at Columbia University broadened and deepened my knowledge of the Middle East through courses on classical Muslim history and on the region’s economics and politics. Among students of the Middle East, my training in three of the region’s major languages is distinctive, enabling me to conduct original research in Arabic, Hebrew, and Turkish. I carried out the first in-depth study of the Israel civil service in the research I undertook for my dissertation and published an analysis of political patronage [‘protekzia’] in its senior ranks. I then shifted my focus to Egypt where I lived and conducted an examination of its chambers of commerce on the eve of the revolution which brought Gamal Abd al-Nasir to power in 1952.

My nearly eight years of residence, at various times, in the Middle East allow me to undertake empirical research on both Arab and Jewish cultures. Long before attention was directed to Palestinian elites and to the evolution of its civil culture, I gathered material on the membership of Fatah. Concentrating on the obituaries of Fatah members killed in missions against Israel, I examined their family backgrounds. The issues defined in that rather study spurred my interest in Palestinian Arab society and my determination to find ways to subject it to sustained scholarly analysis. Thus an essay on Fatah drew me to the topic of Palestinian Arab women and the challenge of incorporating gender into an investigation of power and politics. In the course of pursuing the study of Arab women in Palestine during the period of British rule, background eventually became foreground. The archival material I located was so rich and elaborate that I enlarged the scope of my inquiry into a book exploring how cultural values provide resources for political action. My recently published-Exiled in the Homeland: Zionism and the Return to Mandate Palestine-has allowed me to return to the study of Israel’s history and is, in a sense, a book my education prepared me to write.

Exiled in the Homeland: Zionism and the Return to Mandate Palestine,examines the immigration of Zionists to Palestine during the 1920s in years when their experiences were turned into myth and when their personal struggles to make the land of Israel their home were ignored. The Zionist project I survey in this book concentrates on the period when Jews believed that moving to Palestine lifted them up to a new kind of solidarity, moral development and social coherence. I have chosen the first decade of British rule [1919-1929] as the temporal borders for this study because it was a formative time for developing a Jewish national home and can hold up a mirror to Israel’s conventional nation-building narratives. Thus, I am able to show not only how Zionists settled into Palestine when resources were severely limited but also how much they relied on their visionary hopes and expectations when circumstances provided no cause for optimism. The 1920s-a coherent period from the point of view of British colonial policy and the development of Palestine’s Jewish community-affords an ideal opportunity to examine whether the encounter of Zionists with what they understood as the land of Israel lived up to their expectations and to reflect on both the accomplishments and shortcomings of the Zionist effort to mold a new national identity and to transform the Jewish people. A scholarly engagement with the desires, values, decisions, and reflections of the early generations who created the economic and political structures for the Jewish state means following the individual men and women who crossed continents and seas to make Palestine their home. Immigration was a decisive element in the national life of Palestine’s Jews even though its nature and significance continue to puzzle scholars who seek to know it well.

I found my way to SPME as I watched what was happening at Columbia because when I studied at the school, there was an environment that placed a high value on analysis and scholarly rigor and attached no importance or respect to arguments in the classroom based on personal political viewpoints. Moreover, Israel was fully integrated into the study of the Middle East with Israelis and Palestinians sitting around the same seminar table in discussions not accusations. My commitment to the work of SPME is a commitment to restore the study of the Middle East to the scholarly status it once possessed.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a Hebrew lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz and has written articles about academic anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and lectured widely on these developments and on the growing threat to the safety of Jewish students on college campuses. In 2009, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging a hostile environment for Jewish students on her campus, and in March 2011 a federal investigation of her complaint was launched. In 2011 she co-founded the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization devoted to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating campus anti-Semitism in America.

Dr. Asaf Romirowsky is SPME’s Executive Director. Formerly, he served as SPME’s Deputy Director and is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and co-author of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Dr. Romirowsky got his start in the policy world as a research fellow at the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank headed by scholar Daniel Pipes. Dr. Romirowsky is a former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) International Relations liaison officer in the West Bank and to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Dr. Romirowsky holds a BA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, masters degrees from Villanova University and West Chester University and a doctorate from Kings College London.

Dr. Romirowsky publishes widely in the national press as well as in scholarly journals and makes frequent appearances in the media. In addition, to lecturing and teaching to a wide range of audiences and programs around the world. He has traveled widely in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.